Easter here is going to be an interesting affair. We heavily restrict sugar in our house as even the smallest amount causes incredible silliness and misbehaving in both Jasper and Allegra. For example, a 1/6th of a bounty bar and a single bakery biscuit each last week created an awful afternoon of two children who basically spent their time swinging from the rafters.
It’s not an experience I care to repeat and that was the final straw which totally confirmed our decision to keep them totally off processed sugar. This includes white sugar, raw sugar which is anything but raw and is only slightly larger crystallised white sugar that hasn’t been bleached, and brown sugar which is only white sugar with some molasses added back in for the caramel flavour and brown colour. Any of the other sugars are off too – Demerara, caster, icing etc. The whole lot are a no-go zone. However, I don’t want to deprive my kids of sweetness and as wonderful as fresh and dried fruits, and honey are, they’re not always practical or accessible. Stevia is supposed to be amazing for sweetness although it’s much sweeter than sugar and so doesn’t translate cup for cup when baking cakes and the like. Artificial sweeteners are not happening here either. Aspartame is rumoured to be the excrement of genetically modified E.Coli bacteria being fed toxic waste products but being one of those controversial subjects I either find the Monsanto (yes, Monsanto are linked to Aspartame) and FDA claims of its safety or other pages announcing loudly on its evils but I can’t find reliable information to back up the claims. I personally am sure it is toxic, harmful, probably linked to all manner of illnesses, diseases and behavioural issues but without proof… So it leaves me with a few alternative sugars which are more natural. There’s rapadura or jaggery as it’s known in India which is dehydrated sugar cane juice. It’s often considered to be raw although that’s not strictly true as the usual way to evaporate the excess water is through boiling. It IS still full of all the things that sugar cane juice has – the molasses, natural mineral salts and more. It also tastes amazing. Like brown sugar but so much better! 🙂 Another option for sweeteners here is coconut sugar. I’ve not yet used it but I’ve heard good things. There is also pure maple syrup which is not as readily available here as in America or Canada from all accounts but there are a few brands at the supermarkets. There’s also palm sugar which I HAVE tried and I must declare it as delicious but I know nothing about its sustainability or even how to really use it in cooking. It doesn’t appear at a quick glance to be connected to palm oil which is a good thing. And the other so-called wonder sweetener I’ve heard about a lot is agave syrup but most recently I’ve heard (and I can’t quote where) that it’s as bad as high fructose corn syrup so it’s not something I’m keen to try. I have no need to anyway. 🙂
So, with all this in mind, Easter, with its wealth of chocolate and ever-increasing commercialism was posing as somewhat of a challenge. I could only see 1 option for an ethical and non-kid-skitzing Easter and that was to make it myself. 😀 Damn the man! 😉
Chocolate is easy as pie to make with a Thermy. And Quirky Jo of Quirky cooking fame has done the hard yards and written out a wonderful recipe for almost raw chocolate which is dairy free, sugar-free (it uses rapadura though) and vegan to boot. 🙂 Oh, and did I mention delicious? I made a double batch! 😛 I poured around half of it into a lined tray and set it in the fridge. The rest I used to fill some chocolate Easter moulds and then mix with some organic sultanas and pour into a tray. The egg halves were then partially melted along their flat sides using a knife which I dipped in boiling water, wiped dry and then used on the egg flat side to melt it slightly before sticking it to its equally melted other half. Hey presto, Easter eggs! The two trays of set chocolate met their demise under the attentions of the same knife and a hammer. 😀
But what else to do for Easter. No matter how good this chocolate is, (it uses organic raw cacao powder and organic raw cacao butter so it really does have some antioxidant health benefits) I still don’t want my kids stuffing themselves silly on the stuff. But I DO want them to enjoy the egg hunt so I plan to make some pretty coloured hard-boiled eggs. I’ve hit a snag though. I was planning to use our eggs but a) Mandy is sitting on most of them and b) duck eggs appear to be waterproof! 😦 I boiled up the beetroot peels from the beets I used to make relish last week and threw in one of the duck eggs. Instead of coming out red, or even just pink, it’s just a darker green grey colour and nary a speck of pink to be seen. 😦 So, I need white eggs. I trade eggs for bread with my friends up at Phoenix Park, a deal that suits us both but their chickens are Isa Browns and lay very beautiful but very brown eggs. I doubt I’d get the pink colour I desire with brown eggs. So today some friends who are visiting spent the day in Daylesford and promised to search out some preferably organic free-range white eggs for me as I refuse to buy supermarket cage eggs. Here’s hoping they found some and I get the chance to hard boil them tomorrow morning. 🙂
Another challenge I had was deciding what to put the kids Easter bounty in. We’re having breakfast guests in the morning, The Eco Mum and her family are down and also The Phoenix Park family so we have 5 kids from 12 months through to 4.5 years to cater for. I wanted something environmentally friendly, cheap to make, using things I already had and not to hard for my poor cold-stuffed and thick as mud head to deal with. I thought of origami and went so far as to get my 2 books out (I haven’t done origami in over 20 years I reckon) but white printer paper or newspaper aren’t the best options and I have nothing else, not to mention that my brain simply wouldn’t compute so back to the drawing board. Willow baskets? There’s a willow tree just up the creek a bit but I’ve never basket woven in my life. There’s also no time to knit or crochet anything fi that was possible so I was stumped until I remembered bread baskets. A quick google revealed that they’re mostly made with salt dough which isn’t edible so I made up a normal white bread dough and moulded it over the bottom of a large muffin tray. Voila, 6 bread baskets that are functional although not overly good aesthetically. Meh, you can’t have it all and the kids won’t care anyway. They will just love being able to eat them afterwards. 😛
Whilst I was baking those I tried making sultana and toffee sourdough scrolls as I realised I was short on the necessary dried fruit required for Easter scrolls, my lazy version of hot cross buns. Not sure yet how they’ve gone – I’ll try one in a minute. 🙂 Ok, trying one now. YUM! 😀
I’ve also made sourdough muffins in readiness for Eggs Benedict tomorrow. Thermy can make the hollandaise sauce and will be using more Phoenix Park eggs (thanks guys) and homegrown spinach and rocket. The ham is from the supermarket though. I’m working on that one. So, most of the treats and food from tomorrow is ethical and local which is great. I am looking forward to it so much. 😀
More to come after tomorrow when I can tell you how it’s all gone. 🙂
Ok, I didn’t get to posting this yesterday. Sorry, and a belated happy Easter to you all. 🙂 We ended up having an awesome day yesterday. 😀 We sat, we chatted, we networked and we totally forgot to take any photos! Eggs Benedict worked perfectly too. A double batch of Hollandaise sauce which, with the aid of Hermy the Thermy really does become an easy sauce. Not sure I would have even attempted it without Hermy. The Eco Mum poached the eggs for me. I fried up the bacon and added it to a warming tray bowl thingy I found when moving that must have been a gift once upon a time which neither of us remembers from whom it came. It looks a lot like a barbecue but without the heat source. I put in there the bacon, ham and muffins and whacked it in an ultra low oven (50-75C) whilst the eggs were done. I brought out the coffee machine, ground some beans in Hermy and made up a big pot of coffee. Twice! Caffeine addicted friends I have. 😉 I also made up a pot of tea then popped everything on the table. We squeezed in, got the kids eating and entertained and then we got busy eating and networking.
Yes, we networked. It was a group of like-minded people, of eco peeps, of green-dreamers. IT.WAS.WONDERFUL!!! I was given some wonderful books as a gift too – Back to Basics – Traditional Garden Wisdom and Traditional Kitchen Wisdom. They look amazing and I am looking forward to reading them very much. 🙂 There was also a lovely felt basked filled with fair trade, organic and delicious chocolates by Alter Ego and some yummy goats milk soap.
The kids adored their chocolate too. We loaded them each with their bread baskets and watched them eat through all their Easter chocolate allowance inside of 30 minutes but we had no bad behaviour. ZERO! Nada! Zilch! No sugar high followed by crashing low. No crazy sugar fueled bad behaviour. In fact my sugar reactive kids were positively angelic! 😀 WIN!!! And they carried their little bread bowls around all day, crunching and munching on them. I call that a total success.
I look forward to the future too. Knowing that these wonderful people are out there, caring for Gaia and although we’re not making technological advances, we are making community ones, green dream ones and practical living ones too. I call that a resoundingly successful day. 😀
P.S. Hard-boiling white(ish) eggs in beetroot juice resulted in brown shelled hard boiled eggs. The air turned the colour brown. I should have hard boiled then soaked maybe. Lesson learned. 🙂